Periodically I like to review game materials I really enjoyed. This is the first of a paired set - UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet. Part II should go up tomorrow, time permitting.
For more, please see my reviews page.
By Graeme Morris
Published 1983 by TSR
32 pages plus tri-fold folder cover (with monster roster and maps)
$6.00 in PDF
UK2 The Sentinel is one of the UK-originated AD&D adventures. The entire UK line plus the U line and some of the I series were from UK-based writers, many are marked with the UK flag, and they all have an interesting flavor.
This adventure concerns a village harassed by skulks - sneaky murderers from the Fiend Folio. By attempting to track it down the PCs get to trek around a small hex-mapped area around the villages in the area, and find it's a little more complicated than find-and-whack-the-monster.
The adventure has a lot of features associated with the UK series - a wilderness with both wilderness and dungeon encounters, lots of short encounters that connect directly or tangentially to the main task, and a lived-in feeling to the areas. By lived-in I mean you often encounters places in transition. A monster lair with the original monsters evicted. Another dungeon area with a mix of monsters interacting. Some abandoned areas with touches that make them feel like people have been around. Ultimately the adventure is about getting an artifact called The Sentinel and heading off to part II of the adventure, UK3 The Gauntlet. There is a way to hand off the artifact to an NPC if they aren't interested (or just avoid the task to enjoy using The Sentinel.
While the module does appear to be a railroad, it doesn't play like one. The PCs get a mission, and if they follow up on the clear path ahead, each step will take them to the next. It doesn't feel forced, it feels logical, progressive, and driven by player decisions.
It's full of monsters from the Fiend Folio - skulks, xvarts, symbiotic jellies, sheet phantoms, and more, plus two related unique ones (which I haven't seen anywhere) the Presence and Whisps. They're portable and interesting but not easily so - they're monsters you can't easily just drop in because you rolled up a random encounter. There are more typical monsters, but back in the day it was refreshing to get some FF monsters in adventures.
One especially interesting aspect to this adventure is that you pretty much pick up and get to use a sentient magical item with its own quest. It has unique and interesting powers, and you do get some of them temporarily and some of the permanently if you follow through on the adventure path.
It's really interesting and well set up, and combines a plot with lots of player-directed action that is pulled along by the plot instead of driven in front of it.
There is a lot of good, useful art - it's appropriate and depicts the contents and personalities of the encounter areas. I'm not sure who did it - but it's a UL artist and the potential foe Lavinia and her sons really have a 2000 AD look. The skulk and Detrak, especially, resemble Fink Angel. When I've run the module I've inevitably used the pictures to show what the PCs see.
This is one of my favorite adventures. I played through them multiple times, at least once end-to-end with 1st edition AD&D (twice, if I recall correctly), played parts of it for a solo PC (also with AD&D), twice with GURPS (1st edition and then 3rd edition). Three of those times it was the beginning of a long campaign or featured very prominently in the campaign.
None of the players complained of being forced anywhere - mostly, they'd be so eager to follow the next clue it was hard to get in the intermediary encounters (a trade caravan, a monk who needs help) without the PCs trying to just rush by and get to the "real mission."
A couple of PCs in my games carried The Sentinel, and in my last game items picked up in this adventure and the sequel influenced play for years.
I'd use this again and again except close to 100% of my current group has been through this at least once.
How is it for GURPS?
This is flat-out one of the best adventures for GURPS. Fights are appropriately sized for a small group. They aren't just masses of fodder with masses of HP but generally are interesting encounters. It would be rough with DF unless you upgunned it a lot, but for lower-point fantasy PCs, it would suit them as-is.
Overall: One of my favorites, and I'll expand on more when I review UK3. An excellent adventure that reads a bit like it'll be either too loose or too tightly scripted but actually plays as a smooth player-driven quest. Well balanced for AD&D, and a lot of fun.